Home decor

Easy DIY Oversized Letters for Walls and Shelves

How to make oversized letters for shelves or walls | The Chelsea Project Blog | www.thechelseaproject.com

I talked to an amazing woman today.  She and her husband live in the south of France and are restoring a home that was built in the 1440s.I know! Right?  I’m still trying to wrap my head around how this structure survived all these years…..the weather…the wars……oh my goodness…..THE. WARS.  And, yet.  Here we are.


So amazing.

She sent only a few photos, but the transformation was unbelievable.  I never would have thought it was the same building.  It had gone from broken-down barn to uptown 15th century farmhouse.  The plan is to fully restore the structure to its original glory, but keep it true to period.  At this point, there have been significant structural renovations, but very little finish work on the inside.

“I’m sorry,” she says.  “We have done what we could using hand tools.  We get electricity next week.”

Excuse me.

Did she just say ………Electricity? …. Next…Week?

Yes.  The two of them have literally rebuilt 15th century walls…..without electricity.

I tried to let that sink in…..but who was I kidding?

I didn’t even know anybody who could boil water….without electricity.

And, just like that, she was my DIY hero.

Then, I turned to the project that lay on the dining room floor.

I had made it using graph paper and number two pencils.

By today’s standards…..it was totally old school.

During the process, I flashed back to high school…..

……and was sad….

……that nobody uses graph paper and number two pencils anymore.

I fear that the digital generation is missing out on something quite wonderful…

…..like the smell of a freshly sharpened number two

…..or erasing a line and boldly drawing a new one….while the ghost of the first line remains.

Maybe it would do our hearts good to just turn off the computers once in a while

……and go back in time.

I mean…..geesh….it’s not like I’m suggesting we use hand tools to rebuild a 15th century wall…. for Pete’s sake.


…..just thinking about how nice it is to make a cup of tea


….and simply rock out a few letters….

…old school.

Step 1:  Measure the size space you want to use.  I was working with the area over a bed, so my usable space for the total vignette is 28″ high and 48″ wide.  Allowing one square to equal one inch, the graph paper was numbered on the X axis and Y axis.

Now, are you flashing back to high school?

Notice, too….that because of the size…..pages had to be taped together.  Just be careful to keep those lines matched.


Step 2:  Sketch out the letters on scratch paper.  I just drew out different sized letters, cut them out like paper dolls, and placed them around on the graph paper.  Adjustments were fairly easy since I could lay the letter on the graph paper to check for size.  The one inch squares transfer to one inch on a ruler.  Just keep playing around with the sizes and layouts until you get the look you want.


Step 3:  Enlarge paper letter cut-outs on to brown painter’s paper.  

Painter’s paper can be found in the paint section at the home improvement center.  It’s like a thick grocery paper bag.  Any paper can be used, this just happens to be my fav.

First, lay the letter on the graph paper.  Measure the number of squares for each dimension of the letter.

Then, using a ruler on the painter’s paper convert each square into an inch.  Example:  9 squares high = 9 inches high.


Step 4:  Check and recheck templates.  Once templates are cut out of the paper, I always do a quick remeasure of each piece to make sure all measurements were transferred correctly.  Then, lay out the letters in the area where you plan to use them.  I used blue tape and stuck the templates to the wall.


Step 5:  Using the templates as a guide, trace the letters onto the wood.

I used what I had on hand, 1/2″ MDF.  You may choose any wood you like.

Now……. it’s time to jig.

Much like driving a race car….  open her up on the straight stretches and slow her down around the curves.

And, please wear safety glasses.  Always.


Step 6:  Sand letters.  How much you have to sand depends on the kind of wood you use, how smooth you want the letters, and the level of jigsaw skill.  I used 100 and 150 grit.


Step 7:  Prime and paint.  Use whatever kind of paint products you want in whatever color.  I used a generic black spray primer and chalk paint finish.



Here’s how they look at night…..with funky lighting.


Shout out to my Steampunk lovin girls….


At the end of the day, I felt refreshed and invigorated.

It was nice to unplug and go back in time……

Maybe not as grand as going all the way back to the 15th century….

But, just a little way back….

was good for me…

…to the 1970s

….and the wonderful smell….

….of number two pencils.


And, as always…..please……don’t forget to PIN.

Easy Made Oversized Letters for Walls and Shelves

Until next time,

Happy time travels,



  • Reply desleyjane January 25, 2015 at 12:21 pm

    Oh wow, 1440s?!! The mind boggles.
    I am totally with you. I had an idea to fill my hallway wall with a gallery of photos. I need things to line up and be level, so I got out my graph paper and my #2 pencils and a tape measure and went to town organising my wall. Im so happy with the result!
    Your letters look fab, I might be able to do something like that in my spare room!

    • Reply thechelseaprojectblog January 25, 2015 at 12:56 pm

      Old school rocks! lol. And thanks so much! Hope you will follow the fun. I’d love to share with you. Just hit follow on the Blog Page and like the Facebook page at The Chelsea Project

  • Reply The Cedar Shake Cape January 25, 2015 at 1:12 pm

    Awesome job! Loved the story! Yes…. I think it would be nice to go back to a simple life with no computers, no iphones, no ipads… Maybe for a day or two. 😉

    • Reply thechelseaprojectblog January 25, 2015 at 1:22 pm

      We need to schedule down time…I never knew how much electronics in my face constantly made me miss so much of our lovely world…I vow to unplug and look up on a daily basis. TY for your kind response. Have a blessed day!

  • Reply Maggie Kimble-Bernard January 25, 2015 at 3:28 pm

    Awesome story! No electricity? Hmm…

    I will be making my own M very soon. Thanks for “punking” up the phoyos. I love them!

  • Reply Gail574 January 25, 2015 at 3:57 pm

    Love the letters and the story!! I’m right there with you on the 1970’s. Wait, I was literally right there with you in the 1970’s!!! I was probably standing behind you in Ms Oliver’s class waiting to trim my #2 pencil!! 😉

  • Reply Jayne January 26, 2015 at 12:55 am

    I took drafting and design in high school so yes, I had many flash backs! My kids would say that the 1970’s were the old days! haha The letters look great. I like the way you painted them. I like the gears with them. Good way to pull it all together.

  • Reply regena proffitt January 27, 2015 at 2:05 am

    When I made the desk for my granddaughter’s school house, I took craft spray glue and lightly applied my paper templates to the wood. I used the edge of the paper as my cutting lines. It was easier than trying to trace the paper that wanted to curl. Peel the paper off and clean the glue residue with paint thinner;
    I love your blog! I need more time to do the projects! Do you have any ideals on kitchen cabinet hardware? I am refurbishing my red oak cabinets. I am staining them dark and I have used rubbed bronze light fixtures. Thanks for your help!

    • Reply thechelseaprojectblog January 27, 2015 at 2:36 am

      Thank you for that excellent point. Spray glue would be so helpful. I didn’t think of that. I just used a few pieces of tape. Are you planning to refinish the hardware or buy new?

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  • Reply Sam@Raggedy Bits July 25, 2016 at 2:24 am

    Love how these letters turned out and your story…. Love old school also!!

    Thank you so much for sharing your Awesomeness over at Waste Not Wednesday! 🙂

    • Reply theChelseaProject July 25, 2016 at 12:31 pm

      Thanks, Sam. My pleasure. Love your party. Thanks for hosting.

    Thanks so much for your comment!

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